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Canada warns of Labor Day border delays, and how you can help reduce them

Sept. 02, 2022
5 min read
American flags behind to Canada signs
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This week, the Canada Border Services Agency issued a warning about delays and long cross-border wait times for the upcoming Labor Day weekend.

"Travelers are returning to a [Canadian] border that is managed differently, with evolving COVID-19 requirements, which can mean delays during peak periods," read the CBSA statement. "The CBSA is working with government and industry partners to mitigate long border wait times, but there are also things that travelers can do to make the process easier."

The agency issued the warning to both set traveler expectations and to offer advice on better preparation for a Canada border crossing. The CBSA and other Canadian government agencies have shared specific recommendations about the latest policies and procedures and required and suggested documents.

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Whether you're planning a Labor Day trip to Canada by land, sea or air, it's important to prepare in advance. Based on Canadian government suggestions and TPG's own experiences, here are the best ways to get ready to enter Canada, be it during a busy holiday weekend or on a standard travel day.

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Extended delays forecast at Canadian borders

A long airport line. ANDREW BRET WALLIS/GETTY IMAGES

The CBSA based its warning about Labor Day delays at the Canada border on a combination of dramatically increased travel demand and the changing border crossing requirements.

This year, Canadian airports have suffered from extended wait times at security and customs with "extreme" delays experienced, particularly at Toronto Pearson Airport (YYZ).

While government officials have promised increased staffing and facilitated processes at the borders, COVID-19 vaccination requirements, random testing and checking of required documents are still slowing down the process.

For the latest health-related requirements for crossing the border into Canada, visit the official Canadian government COVID-19 website.

For the latest wait times at specific land border crossings, the government of Canada updates this table of listings for more than two dozen land-border crossings. The information is updated hourly, seven days a week.

On a recent weekday, most Canadian land crossings reported no delays, although one did show a 50-minute wait. Waits of more than three hours have been reported at Canadian land borders on prior Labor Day weekends.

Checking the CBSA land crossing delays prior to a drive can help optimize your crossing time. You can even check the website a few times ahead of your trip to see what sample waits are like during your targeted day of the week and time of day for travel.

Related: Canada resumes random arrival COVID-19 testing at major airports

What you can do to prepare for and limit delays

CANADA.CA

While there's nothing you can do about travel regulations and holiday crowds, you can take some steps to facilitate your entry into Canada this Labor Day weekend.

Flexibility in timing can be a great workaround to help avoid Labor Day border bottlenecks. If you can travel on Thursday or Tuesday versus Friday and Monday, this will help you avoid the heights of the traveler traffic and backups at customs and security.

Be sure to have your required travel documents in order before arrival.

"Canadian law requires that all persons entering Canada carry proof of citizenship and identity. A valid U.S. passport, passport card, or NEXUS card satisfies these requirements for U.S. citizens. Children under 16 only need proof of U.S. citizenship," according to the U.S. Department of State website.

Beyond your identification documents, the ArriveCan form is the most important requirement for entry. The ArriveCan document covers identification and health-related information, including vaccination status. All travelers, regardless of vaccination status, must submit their information in ArriveCan up to 72 hours before they enter Canada.

The form "collects contact, health and travel information to protect the health and safety of travelers and expedite processing at the border," according to the CBSA website.

You can reduce your wait times at the border by completing the mandatory ArriveCan submission before you arrive. ArriveCan is available as an app for your phone or on the ArriveCan website.

More than 1.4 million travelers used the ArriveCan app in a single summer week, according to the CBSA. For a recent trip to Canada, I was able to complete the forms in less than 10 minutes (once I had my documents ready).

Air travelers landing in Toronto, Vancouver International Airport (YVR) and Montreal-Trudeau International Airport (YUL) can use ArriveCan's Advance Declaration feature to complete their customs and immigration declaration in advance of their arrival in Canada.

"Early usage data indicates that using the optional Advance CBSA Declaration cuts the amount of time a traveler spends at a kiosk by roughly one-third," according to the CBSA.

Related: 5 small Canadian cities you can use points and miles to visit

Bottom line

This Labor Day weekend, you should expect delays crossing borders into Canada, both at airports and at land crossings. The Canada Border Services Agency issued a warning this week that travelers may face long wait times to get through border control.

Travelers planning a trip to Canada over Labor Day or any other busy travel times can reduce potential wait times by preparing documents in advance and, in particular, completing the required ArriveCan forms via the app or website ahead of time.

Choosing an alternate day of travel or time of day based on typical wait times posted for border crossings is also a good technique to avoid wait times at border crossings in Canada.

Featured image by RIVER NORTH PHOTOGRAPHY/GETTY IMAGES
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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